Art Dump: Book characters.

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m doing research for the next novel at the moment, and also trying to think about the characters and the plot as I go. I have a clear idea of what the two main characters look like, but of course with my terribly impressive drawing skills what I actually needed was some kind of photo reference based on people who looked roughly similar.

What happened was not the fantastic showstopper of headshots perfect for luring in a new audience to my writing which I was hoping for, and rather more a kind of sad collection of quick scribbles.

NarratorBen Martin

ben martin

I swear he is not actually a gremlin, or suffering from irreparable facial muscle damage, or the result of a horrible accident involving shark DNA and a human embryo.  He is in fact a mature student (having dropped out of his first degree in Media Studies in order to be a researcher on TV) doing his HND in Journalism.

Lead Science Person: Dr Daniel Khoo

Daniel was moderately more of a success.

daniel khoo

Dr Khoo is a post-doctoral researcher into bornavirus, which is not the virus at the centre of this story, but he is also the person least tolerant of idiot journalists, and this is why his colleagues thought it might be funny to point a confused looking journalism student at him.


* This may take a while.

Book Planning: Ominous Parallels

Tentatively, this autumn’s writing project (which I am beginning research on now because I dislike being caught on the hop) revolves around an extremely unpleasant fictional virus known as KBV (short for Konebogetvirus, following the tradition of viruses being named after where they are found or thought to have first broken out).

Designing a virus from scratch has involved a certain amount of probing to find out just what level of viral design is actually feasible, and whether or not anyone would really go about making something more dangerous than it already was.

“No” was the general conclusion.

Then Dr Kawaoka’s team at Wisconsin-Madison built an Avian flu strain out of other avian flus and mutated it deliberately to make it airborne, in a move that was apparently designed to make my novel more plausible, as well as make most of the public health and virology communities close ranks to unanimously shout “why the fuck would you do that are you nuts?”.

This is the H5N1 avian influenza virus particles, coloured transmission electron micrograph (TEM). Each virus particle consists of ribonucleic acid (RNA), surrounded by a nucleocapsid and a lipid envelope (green). Click on image for source of both image and information.

Having confirmed that it is both possible and apparently that there are people in the world mental enough to both do this thing and fund other people doing this incredibly dangerous and stupid thing, I shrugged and moved on to reading some science faction, or non-fiction sensation, or whatever you want to call The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. It’s a very famous book, and in addition to getting my bearings with regards to what Ebola is really like, I thought it might be a good idea to see what other books in the genre of “epidemic thriller” are like*.

It’s a fascinating and speedy read, with about the right level of dumbed-down for my poor arts grad brain to handle, and the right amount of extraneous character detail to make you even more tense that whoever is about to die at any minute. Ebola: gross and terrifying. An unusual and unpleasant family of viruses, but a distant worry given that there haven’t really been any serious outbreaks that I can remember in a whi–

And then I came home and had this Tweet shown to me.
And then I came home and had this Tweet shown to me.

Okay, I’ll just… hope that these parallels don’t continue, then, given that I’m currently reading The Demon In The Freezer (also by Richard Preston), which is in the process of making me as shit-scared of Variola (smallpox) as I am now of Ebola. If anyone hears about some instances of that getting out, don’t tell me, or I’m going to start feeling guilty…

* Which probably means I’m going to have to read The Andromedia Strain and I really don’t want to. I had my Michael Crichton phase for a few years after I saw Jurassic Park at the right age for it, and the thought of returning to it does not appeal.

T-shirt, t-shirt, t-shirt, pattern, pattern.

The march of fashion and the fall of my own stylistic footsteps have rarely been in concorde: while the world raved about ditsy prints in the 90s I was militantly into plain colours, when it demanded acid hues I was all about metallic blue. Now that the tyranny of early-90s fashion and loose crop tops has revolved around to meet me again I’ve fled from photo t-shirts and a sea of endless daisy patterns into my own designs.

So far the William Morris Co continues to disappoint by not licensing a single William Morris t-shirt and most all-over print t-shirt companies object to the use of copyrighted material, so I am at present denied that particular satisfaction.

However. William Morris wasn’t the only person to design patterns. For a start there’s my friend Fi, the redoubtable Fiona Hogarth, who is currently in the process of coming up with a dense, foliage-heavy design in green and gold for me as per request:

This isn’t it, but it’s similar.

There are also places that sell printed jersey. While most of this is horrible and also expensive (as is often the case with fabric for some reason: bad enough that it costs and arm and a leg without making it look revolting as well, companies!), there is the occasional gem:



Leading to me going cheerfully nuts and churning out a pair of leggings and a t-shirt which I cannot wear at the same time because I look like I ought to be preaching in a Pentecostal church somewhere in Walthamstow: an admirable pastime, but not one to which I could non-hypocritically surrender myself, what with the atheism and the whiteness and everything.

However as separate garments they’re Tony-Tiger-Grrrrrrreat, and I’ve solved the previous problem of saggy leggings by being a rational adult and making the pattern a size smaller than usual because it is stretchy. I never claimed to be swift on the uptake.

As previously mentioned, there are also all-over-print services now of the sort I’d have killed for when I first started a Cafepress pit in 2003.

Print All Over Me allow the commercialisation of your designs, and I have one or two impressive and high-resolution patterns to drop on there (see below): however, while the base price of their t-shirts ($38.00) is already steep (and the leggings, at $55.00, even steeper), the shipping costs are at their cheapest $44.00. No, I have not put the decimal place in the wrong part of that sum. Yes it does cost more to ship the already expensive item than it does to buy it.

I do not think I will be making many sales, and certainly not enough to reimburse me the t-shirt I bought myself:

Frankly, I think the William Morris Co. need to pull their finger out and start licensing t-shirts of their patterns, or I’m going to have to start wearing the same godawful “clever” t-shirts I wore in 1997.

And no one wants that.